Fire company suspended after alleged racist mocking of Black girl killed in police shooting
The Briarcliffe Volunteer Fire Company faced disciplinary action, and the matter has been referred to the district attorney’s office.
Volunteers for a fire company located just outside of Philadelphia have been suspended for 30 days after allegedly using racial epithets during a virtual call last month and mocking an 8-year-old Black girl shot dead by police.
According to an NBC News report, members of the Briarcliffe Volunteer Fire Company faced disciplinary action for their remarks, and the matter has been referred to the local district attorney’s office for further review.
Fanta Bility was killed last August after two teenagers — Angelo “AJ” Ford, 16, and Hasein Strand, 18 — opened fire at each other outside the Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill after a verbal spat. Three officers, in response, fired at a moving car and spectators leaving the football game taking place. Bility and three others — including her sister — were shot.
According to the report, after an online Jan. 27 meeting between Briarcliffe staffers and firefighters from other area stations — including Goodwill Fire Company, another volunteer team — six members of the Briarcliffe squad remained on the virtual call for two hours after other participants logged off. During their conversation, they allegedly used racial slurs to describe other firefighters and a fire chief from another company.
The volunteers also said it was “time to leave” their community because more Black people were moving in. Additionally, the members reportedly made jokes about Bility’s name.
A letter detailing these comments was mailed to the Darby Township Board of Commissioners Wednesday from a board member of the Goodwill station.
“We have great concerns of this as fire companies, and the safety of the community,” the letter says according to NBC News. “This is not appropriate and does not belong in the township.”
Sharon Hill police officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan and Brian Devaney have each been charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter, one count of involuntary manslaughter, and 10 counts of reckless endangerment in conjunction with the shooting that killed Bility.
A lawyer for Bility’s family said in a statement that they were “appalled” to hear the fire volunteers were mocking the girl and her death.
“A kind and loving girl, Fanta brightened the lives of everyone she met,” the statement said. “To speak of her with such disrespect, shines the light of shame on those people at the fire house making the remarks, and reflects negatively on those good and true first responders who pledge their lives to the service of all members of the community.”
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